The Real Reasons Marvel Hasn't Made a Hulk Solo Movie Yet

Monday, 22 June 2015 - 2:02PM
Monday, 22 June 2015 - 2:02PM
The Real Reasons Marvel Hasn't Made a Hulk Solo Movie Yet
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Many Marvel fans have been clamoring for another solo Hulk film ever since he roared back into theaters in 2012's The Avengers. The speculation has run rampant regarding Marvel's reasons for declining to make a solo film for the character, and was further fueled by Mark Ruffalo's recent (and slightly vague) comments on the subject: 

"As far as a Hulk movie, a standalone Hulk movie, Marvel doesn't really have the rights to that yet. That's still Universal's property, so there's that issue. That's a big impediment to moving forward with that."

This makes it sound like Marvel has declined to make a Hulk movie because they "don't have the rights," but according to Mark Hughes, a contributor at Forbes, this is simply not true. Marvel does have the film production rights to Hulk, ever since the property reverted back to them in 2005. Universal has the distribution rights to the film, but Marvel can still make a movie, they would just have to let Universal distribute it.

Hughes goes on to say that Universal's distribution rights are unlikely to stop Marvel from making a Hulk standalone film. Several of Marvel's most successful films have been distributed by Paramount, for example, including Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Captain America: The First Avenger, and Thor. It's obviously preferable not to share profits, but this clearly isn't sufficient to stop Marvel from making the movie if all of the other stars are aligned.

Hughes names three reasons a Hulk solo movie hasn't been made yet:

1) Previous Hulk films have not performed well at the box office,
2) Hulk is more suited to a supporting role than a lead role, and 
3) The entirely CGI character would lead to an astronomical budget, making it more of a risk.

First, both of the standalone Hulk films have been critical and financial failures, failing to break even at the box office. As a result, the studio would need to be convinced that something is radically different, whether it's the built-in fanbase for the character or an improvement on the script.

The built-in fanbase seems to be a given, as the character has been extremely popular in both of the Avengers films. But, as Hughes points out, the character is mostly relegated to the occasional "Hulk smash," which might be an inherent reason that Hulk works better as a supporting character than a protagonist. 

The character seems to work better and be more popular as a value-added addition to other films. Saving the Hulk to turn him into a "special event" character whom audiences only get to see as an extra element in Marvel's biggest productions raises his profile and ensures people don't get tired of him. It also allows the movies to exploit his strengths as a character with far less concern about any potential weaknesses.

And let's be clear, some weaknesses do exist - at face value, and as perceived by the mainstream public who buy tickets, the Hulk is primarily a big super-strong monster-hero. Which has terrific value as a supporting character in a larger story, but (again, speaking about mainstream public perceptions here) might feel harder to imagine remaining as enjoyable to watch for the entirety of a two-hour film.

So in order to make Hulk work in a two-hour film, it would seem necessary to spend most of the time with Bruce Banner, and only occasionally break out the Hulk for big action sequences. Unfortunately, this was pretty much the formula for the last two films, and they both bombed at the box office. The other option would be to write a script that is filled with classic Hulk action, but not only do you run the risk that the audience would tire of it, but the CG nature of the character would mean an even bigger budget than most superhero films. 

So does this mean that we'll never see a Hulk standalone film? Probably not, according to Hughes:

Fans should relax and be patient. Marvel has proven to be one of the most savvy and successful studios in Hollywood. They are very aware of what audiences like and don't like at this point, and they are very aware of their options for using the Hulk in a variety of different types of stories... If and when Marvel has the right story to tell, and the Hulk has finally built up so much public affection that a stronger solo performance seems much more likely than another stumble, then and only then will Marvel movie forward with a sequel.
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